‣ The hottest July on record in the world, with glacier run offs in the arctic.
‣ Corruption in a health care system that is actually a sick care system.
‣ Negative comments about a city 45 minutes from the White House.
Each of these is a type of injustice, a type of burning ember among the ashes left behind the last round of water that took out most of the flames.
In many of our traditions, fire is the element of transformation, purification, and purging. We mark the August sabbat by many different names, though still the first of three harvest festivals. In the northern hemisphere, summer’s heat reigns as we celebrate our gratitude for the abundance of food, family, and friends in our lives.
In the southern hemisphere, winter’s cold holds us close with the fires pointing to spring.
Regardless of our geographic location, this sabbat reminds us that when we have the will and the fire, we have what we need to change our lives and the world around us for the better.
As Pagans, Polytheists, and Heathens, we see the world around us through the elements, and for many, through the gods we worship and serve. We hear the call to act, using the abilities and gifts that we each have. We use rituals baths, circles, and spells to remove what is no longer needed on a spiritual, mental, emotional, psychological, and even physical level.
While the traditional time for physical purging of one’s living space might be during the spring after a long winter, a fire sabbat is another opportunity to face what we do not like in our lives and in the world around us.
Ignorance is not bliss.
Pretending that climate change, racism, health care deserts, police brutality, and economic inequality will disappear without conscious effort and hard work is like living in a burned house of smoldering embers ready to re-ignite.
A survey of millennials points out the many effects that ignoring small injustices can have on generations. When optimism and trust are down because of the lack of action by current and prior generations, it is past time to act.
Purging injustice means not ignoring a potential crisis presented when the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management publicly proclaims that federal lands should be sold off or transferred to individual states. Glacial melt is another outward sign of injustice that needs the global and personal action to slow glacier elimination. It is hard to protect the environment when power is given to those who would destroy it.
Unequal access to medical care is another injustice. The current measures in the United States to resolve these injustices are, at best, temporary fixes. At worst, these measures may lead more people to life at the bottom of a three-tiered system of: sufficient insurance coverage and resources, some insurance with insufficient coverage given personal resources, and no insurance.
This is why the current public debate on the so-called “Medicare for All” deserves our attention, regardless of your political beliefs. The fight for health care coverage that is more than sick care coverage is a fight for every person, not just those in need.
When physician organizations remind us that the US system of health care does not work to keep people healthy, we must recognize that warning as a sign of deep injustice.
Some combat the injustice through using and spreading the word about cooperatives, community garden use, healthy foods, habits to stay healthy, and the importance of community clinics for regular care to avoid emergency room use.
Modern injustices often overlap. In one case, the presence of food deserts in urban areas can be seen both as a case of racism, economic injustice, and health care injustice. Having a food co-op in a former urban food desert is one way to fight injustice and to bring out much needed transformation.
Cell phone video and the public recording now expose other injustices such as police brutality more frequently. What can be replayed on video allows everyone to judge what happened.
This has changed how some perceive and accept police authority. There is a shift from the benevolent, protective role of the police officer to one of attacker. Each step of potential justice served starts to re-build the reputation of the police as benevolent protectors for all.
However, a purging and transformation of injustice comes when we each face our own biases head-on, without ignoring what is around us or pretending that things will get better without our acknowledgement or interference.
We live in a time that is not unlike an itch that is scratched so hard the skin bleeds. Our skin needs time to heal; and continued trauma will only make things worse or keep the pain at a constant level.
As individuals, we have the choice to scratch until we bleed and keep scratching, or we can choose to clean our wounds and stop scratching.
Purging injustice is much like gardening. If we brush up against a plant that causes the itching, we can wash the skin and wear protective clothing. This allows us to exist with the plant as we make our next decisions.
Then, we can decide to kill the plant as a weed, relocate the plant to an area where contact is less harmful, or block it off so that everyone knows not to go near the plant.
We can grow a different, healthier version of the plant that will bring balance to the overall garden.
Injustice can follow a similar path. Larger areas of needed transformation and purification will require more interaction between groups and individuals, yet each of us can contribute daily to addressing injustices within our own sphere of influence like confronting bigotry and discrimination, as well as food, health, and economic injustice. The voices of many are stronger when we act together.
But the first step to acting is to see and acknowledge what is around us. Where are we overlooking or ignoring what is out of balance around us?
They can be hard to see. Our neighbors may be living with food insecurity, lack of medical coverage or even fear at disclosing their faith. They may be suffering from heat or drought brought on by a changing climate, an injustice that may be the hardest of all to change.
Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to transform, to purify, and to purge injustices around us. Without a healthy and stable planet, addressing the other injustices will mean little.
We live as a society on one planet. During this sabbat, as we celebrate abundance, let’s fuel our will to fight injustices on all.